By Ben Callahan
Alot of metal fabricating operations are cleaninguptheir act. Some shops might be making a formal
commitment to 5S practices. (5S is a workplace organization methodology based on Japanese principles that when translated all begin with the letter
“S.” The rough translation is sort, set in order, shine,
standardize, and sustain, all of which contribute to
an environment where an individual does his job
in the most efficient way possible.) This is most
evident in shops that are committed to keeping
the shop floor, walkways, and work areas clean of
clutter. These shops want to “shine,” so they make
accommodations for machine operators to tidy up
their work areas each day.
Other metal fabricators simply appreciate an uncluttered work environment. Items such as tools are
located easily in an organized environment. Clean
floors pose less of a slip or tripping hazard. Also,
cleanliness can be used as sales tool in trying to win
over customers that are looking for a modern and
reliable metal fabricating services provider.
The motivations are clear and easy to understand. The challenges are just as clear, particularly if
a metal fabricator is operating a waterjet.
Everyone understands the benefits of waterjet
cutting. It is suitable for cutting heat-sensitive ma-
terial, eliminating the risk of introducing material
stresses that typically come with thermal cutting of
metal. It can cut a variety of material, such as glass
and rubber, in addition to metal. It can hold an ac-
curacy of 0.005 in. with a repeatability of 0.001 in.
over the entire work envelope.
But it can be a messy process. When pulverized
abrasive hits the water, you get what is best described as “muck,” which sometimes can kick back
from the cuting process and land outside of the
tank. Abrasive dust and the water from the tank also
can escape, landing on anything that may be nearby. It’s one of the main reasons that fabricators keep
laser cutting machines and high-end press brakes
away from waterjet cutting activities.
Many metal fabricators just live with the messy
byproducts that sometimes accompany the waterjet cutting process. But they should know that it
doesn’t have to be that way.
These seven tips can help to keep a waterjet cutting area clean and turn it into a showplace work
No. 1. Put Shields
Around the Tank
If you use a waterjet to cut metal, water spray is going to be kicked back at you. The jet might hit the top
slats and produce the kickback, or the jet might hit
the bottom of the slats and create a lot of turbulence,
which will shoot some water over the tank’s edges.
Shields, which typically are 2 to 3 feet high and
attach to the side of the tank walls, keep the spray
in the tank. The shields usually are made of a clear
plastic, such as LexanTM, but metal shielding is a
money-saving alternative. You can either purchase
shields or make them yourself.
Keep in mind that from an operator’s perspective,
it’s definitely better to use transparent shields. It’s
simply easier to see what’s going on inside of the
tank. At the very least, the shielding near the control
station should be clear.
If you don’t want to deal with shielding, you can
take other steps. Welding curtains are always available in a fab shop, and they can do the trick in terms
of keeping dust and water spray inside a certain
area. Fabricators also have been known to string up
shower curtains or some type of plastic tarp around
the tank to accomplish the same goal.
No. 2. Consider Cutting
Cutting underwater is a great way to keep the cutting process as contained and clean as possible. The
underwater piercing process still produces spray,
but when the machine is running, not too much material is going to escape the tank. Underwater cutting also keeps the noise down.
Experienced waterjet operators likely want the
cutting to take place above the water line just so
they can see the cutting process easily. If you choose
to cut underwater, make sure the job program is solid, so you don’t have to worry about issues such as
tip-ups. When running a program for the first time,
it is best not to run it as an underwater cutting job.
No. 3. Treat that Waterjet
Tank Like a Car
At the end of the day, rinse off the machine and
hose everything down. That keeps the muck that
gets kicked out of tank and stuck on the tank from
drying and becoming even more difficult to remove.
If possible, try rinsing down the tank in between
jobs. Even filling up a bucket with some soap and
using a broom or a scrub brush on the stick to wipe
down the machine to keep it clean makes for a good
use of time.
To help battle against future muck sticking to the
tank, try spraying some car wax in the tank. With a
simple application of wax, the surface finish should
repel dirt and help bead up the water. If you want
the water to stream off the treated surface, try using
a more expensive wax.
Lean and clean
in waterjet cutting
These 7 tips can help a fabricator maintain a clean environment,
even in the midst of a full production schedule
A flood nozzle
creates a small curtain
of water around the jet
stream, which helps
contain the kick-back.